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Zero Waste Cities Collaborative

In February 2017, CAG joined a collaborative of ten cities in India, Indonesia and the Phillipines that will work to reduce plastic pollution on land and in our oceans through (1) ward-level waste audits, (2) data collection on problematic plastic waste in oceans and rivers. Using data from multiple sites and some product research, our project will publicly identify these products/materials in order to catalyse much-needed innovation in product/packaging design.

Plastic waste constitutes between 60% and 80% of marine debris and is “one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems impacting our oceans and waterways,” according to the U.N. Much of this waste enters from countries in the Asia Pacific region, where rapid urbanization, growth of megacities, increased consumption, extensive coastlines and waterways, and minimal waste infrastructure cause high levels of plastic leakage into oceans. Up to 90% of seabirds today have plastic in their stomachs, and this will reach 99% by 2050 under current projections of plastic production and disposal. Unless we take action to slow and ultimately stop plastic pollution at its source, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050. The vast majority of plastic waste originates on land, and reaches the oceans because of unsustainable product design and inadequate waste management systems. It is clear that a dramatic intervention is needed, one which demonstrates transformative zero waste systems at the local level and uses data to drive sustainable redesign of production and consumption. 


We will conduct thorough waste audits at chosen impact sites to identify specific problem materials. To complement ward-level audits, we will identify what materials are most commonly littered or escape the waste stream and enter our oceans. A thorough waste audit will identify specific problem materials (for example sachets, coffee capsules, juice boxes, Styrofoam for take-out food, etc.). We will also undertake an analysis of brand data in waste audits in order to advocate for producer responsibility of waste. Currently, there is no good method or policy for handling post-consumer waste like styrofoam, tetrapaks, and non woven polypropylene. These materials break down into tiny pieces and find their way to water bodies and the ocean.  However, there is insufficient data on the quantity of products being consumed and discarded, alternative policies to reduce leakage into oceans, availability of alternative products or services, and information on consumer behavior in the market. Using this data, we will produce a report on producer responsibility options.


“Zeroing in on Waste” will reduce marine plastic pollution through high-impact zero waste projects and data analysis that analyses a mix of urban waste streams, beaches and waterways. This work is also important because of the co-benefits that zero waste systems include for public health and economic growth. It includes increased recognition for and formal integration of the informal waste workers whose critical environmental efforts have previously gone under the radar. This will include issuance of official identity cards, which allows them access to critical services and fewer legal obstacles.

Plastic - a magic or tragic material?

Plastics binge Man-made debris is found in marine habitats throughout the world, from the poles to the equator, from shorelines and estuaries to remote areas of the high seas, and from the sea surface to the ocean floor. It has clogged our rivers and lakes, and choked the life of these ecosystems. Animals and birds mistake them for food, sometimes choking or having their digestive tracts...know more

Are businesses ready to beat plastic pollution?

Beat Plastic Pollution, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time. It invites us to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health. While there are no reservations on...know more

On World Environment Day, green groups in India tell corporations: Stop causing plastic pollution

Thousands of volunteers participated in the pan-India waste and brand audits. Photo by Roshan P. Rai of Zero Waste Himalaya   New Delhi, India (June 4, 2018) — On the eve of World Environment Day, environmental organizations in  India challenged corporations to beat plastic pollution by drastically reducing the production and use of single-use and low-value plastic...know more

Hasiru Dala Innovations: adding new definitions to what makes a successful business

Given the scale and complexity of the waste problem in Chennai, it may be necessary for the city to encourage social enterprises that could help reduce the amount and types of waste that is sent to landfills. Hasiru Dala Innovations is one such social enterprise that evolved from the Hasiru Dala Trust since its founders believed this would be the most effective way forward if they wished to...know more

Waste Warriors of Greenways Road

A couple of weeks ago, Durga and I set out to audit the waste generated at Dr. P. Venkataramana Higher Secondary School. The school is a major contributor to waste stockpiled at the Greenways community. To our surprise, the management of Dr. P. Venkataramana Higher Secondary School agreed to our suggestion to make the campus free of waste. We planned a waste audit to determine different waste...know more

Is Chennai ready for a Zero Waste Wedding?

This report presents the experience of Kripa Ramachandran, Researcher, and Sriram Radhakrishnan, Community Organiser, in making a wedding in Chennai zero waste. They found that hotels and caterers would be willing to adopt sustainable waste management practices. What is required for effective waste management in Chennai is the right directive for Bulk Waste Producers and improvements in the...know more

Incentivising zero waste in a low-income community in Chennai

This report presents the experience and lessons of the Zero Waste Cities project in setting up a zero-waste system in Greenways, Chennai. It was led by Gabriel Raj with the support of Kripa Ramachandran, Researcher, and Sriram Radhakrishnan, Community Organiser at CAG, and Pennurimai Iyakkam. know more